“And how come you ain’t dead?” “‘Cause God’s a fucking asshole, that’s why.” Sunday school, this is not.
Over the last decade or so, comics writer Jason Aaron has shown a startling proficiency in a number of genres and paradigms. He’s done fantasy-inflected, big-deal superheroics on Thor for Marvel and put out his own deep-fried redneck crime drama with Southern Bastards. Now he’s adding biblically inspired barbarian pulp to the list with The Goddamned.
The Goddamned #1 reunites Aaron with R.M. Guera, the artistic talent he partnered with on Scalped, the DC/Vertigo series that made comics fans sit up and take notice of both men’s skills. In the first issue of this new series, it feels like Aaron and Guera are stripping down interpersonal conflict and its causes down to their most primal forms. Main character gets drunk. Some jerks take his stuff, slice his throat and leave him in an open-toilet boghole. The guy gets up, engages in cuss-filled conversation with a little boy and goes to get his stuff.
When the Bone Boys object to his presence, the reader learns that the mysterious lead character can’t be killed.
That’s because he’s been cursed by God. The first person ever to commit the worst sin.
The thing that makes The Goddamned #1 click is that it’s not hard to imagine that life after the Garden of Eden was awful. It gets glossed over but all kinds of terrible things happen in the Old Testament. Plagues, wanton debauchery and mass murder were the order of the day, some of it in God’s name or by His own hand. Cain is walking through godless times and the world before the Flood makes a perfect setting for an over-the-top, character-driven action drama. It’s like an old-school Conan comic without the PG-13 art restrictions or flowery language. Guera’s aptitude for breaking down moment-to-moment instances of sudden, uncomfortably intimate violence shines here. It doesn’t look pretty or choreographed when Cain slaughters the Bone Boys. The primeval pain of it all radiates off the page.
But Cain isn’t presented as a totally unfeeling badass. He shows regret over his original sin and seems to want nothing more than a way out of his wretched existence. Other biblical characters show up in the series’ first issue, too, and they’re supposedly doing God’s work. But their actions sure don’t look heavenly. I’m going to keep up with The Goddamned to see how hellish it gets.
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